Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Fans owed glimpse of future, fight to finish
LITTLE ROCK A friend in Fort Smith sent a message Sunday, after watching Saturday’s game, saying that the Arkansas Razorbacks looked like orphans against Ole Miss.
Another friend, this one from Little Rock, said after seeing her first game of the year, she thought they lacked leadership.
And if you took all the comments heard after the loss to Ole Miss, the theme is that if Bobby Petrino were the head coach the Razorbacks would have found a way to beat Ole Miss, Louisiana-Monroe and maybe Rutgers, which got beat by Kent State and Little Rock quarterback Spencer Keith, a four-year starter.
A lot of mistakes that have been made on the field, and there have been too many to cite them all, would not have happened on Petrino’s watch.
Petrino, though, is not the coach of the Razorbacks, nor will he be. Jeff Long has said the coaches he is interested in are currently coaching.
Petrino has paid the price for his mistake, but he has to start over somewhere else.
As for the Razorbacks, well, it has been a little disappointing that no one on the staff stepped up and became the leader this team obviously needs.
That fell to Tyler Wilson, the quarterback, and the truth is no matter how good a leader you are, how great a quarterback, you still need guidance and direction at 22 years of age.
John L. Smith gets some of the blame. But truth be known, he was hired to do two things, keep the team together and keep the staff together.
Understand, too, that when Smith was having enough success at Utah State to get the Louisville job - where he had enough success to get the Michigan State job - he had an offensive coordinator named Bobby Petrino.
Smith’s biggest mistake was talking about winning the BCS national championship from his first news conference until the loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
That gave the fans expectations that this team was not going to reach no matter who was coaching them.
The Razorbacks won 11 games last season, but if not for a total second-half collapse by Texas A&M and a goal-line fumble by Vanderbilt, we are talking eight regular-season victories.
If the Hogs had gone 9-4 (including a victory over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl), no one would have believed with their heart and head that Miami was in their plans for this season.
Especially not when you lost so much on defense, you lost the best receiving corps in school history and then you lost your leader.
This had tough season written all over it, and that was never more clear than Saturday when the best team could not find a way to win.
It was going to be a difficult enough season, then the Hogs lost Tank Wright, who would have adjusted back to defensive end with a few added pounds, and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith. Then, Chris Gragg went out early against the Rebels and Brandon Mitchell was left behind for breaking a team rule.
Cobi Hamilton has had to become a deep threat and possession receiver for the Hogs.
If there is one thing John L. Smith and his staff need to do the last four games, it is look for places to get Brandon Allen some game experience. He’s the quarterback of the future.
Also keep getting running back true freshman Jonathan Williams some experience, as well as anyone who is returning next season, one of which needs to be Knile Davis, who looks physically recovered but hasn’t played like it.
Let Wilson go out with a bang, but for the future of the Razorbacks, start getting some of these kids some experience. Otherwise, the next two to three years could make this one look like a walk in the park.
What is on the line now is instilling some Razorbacks pride and passion even if it has to come from an assistant coach, getting some experience for the future and going out fighting like the championship game was on the line.
The Razorbacks Nation deserves it.
Sports, Pages 17 on 10/30/2012